Elizabeth Woodville


Elizabeth Woodville,

wife of King Edward IV



circa 1437, daughter of Sir Richard Woodville and Jacquetta of Luxemburg, dowager Duchess of Bedford


  1. before 1457 (?), Sir John Grey
  2. 1 May 1464, Edward IV at Grafton Regis, Northamptonshire


26 May 1465 at Westminster Abbey, London


8 June 1492 at Bermondsey Abbey, now Southwark, London


St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle

lizabeth’s first husband was killed in 1461 fighting for the Lancastrians, leaving her with two young sons. Elizabeth and the young Edward IV met. She was beautiful and determinedly virtuous. He was virile, desperately desirous, and totally unused to rejection. The result was a secret marriage.

Not only were negotiations ongoing for Edward’s marriage to a foreign princess, but due to an earlier secret pre-contract of marriage, he may not have been free to marry Elizabeth. When Edward did make the marriage public, some of his strongest supporters were alienated.

Elizabeth was a commoner with no foreign connections. She also had a dozen charming and ambitious siblings who, upon receiving generous royal patronage, were resented and envied.

Elizabeth and Edward had ten children; seven lived to adulthood. When Edward died in 1483, their oldest boy was only 12 years old. Edward’s brother Richard, no friend to the Woodvilles, took control of the young heir. Elizabeth fled into sanctuary with her other children. She later released her second son to his uncle’s care. Neither boy emerged again from the Tower of London. Elizabeth’s marriage to Edward was declared invalid on the basis of the earlier pre-contract. With Edward and Elizabeth’s children now illegitimate, Richard took the throne.

Elizabeth, still in sanctuary, began intriguing to arrange a marriage between her oldest daughter. Elizabeth of York and Henry Tudor, the Lancastrian contender for the throne. Tudor, on his second invasion attempt, was successful and gained the throne as Henry VII. The marriage occurred.

Elizabeth was in favor at her son-in-law’s court for several years before, in 1487, being unaccountably deprived of her possessions and relegated to the Abbey of Bermondsey (today an archaeological site in London’s borough of Southwark). She died there five years later and was buried without ceremony at Windsor.

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